I am writing this post as a favor to the 2011 CMs. It is not your fault that TFA can justify to themselves that a few hours of student teaching experience with class sizes of 15 or less makes you ready to handle the responsibility of teaching the kids who need highly trained teachers the most.
I’m doing this because I want you (2011 CMs) to be successful, even though a small part of me does want TFA (the organization) to fail. This might seem paradoxical. Really, I don’t want TFA to fail. I want them to improve. Unfortunately, unless they admit that they have failed, they will not improve. This is what it is like to be inside my brain.
When I hear the TFA quit rate has increased, I feel a little happy since at that moment I’m not thinking of the thousands of students who had to suffer through an ineffective teacher, I’m thinking of the tens of thousands who might, in the future, get to have a more effective teacher.
Anyway, I just want them to do a better job and to stop lying to the CMs, the media, and to themselves about their inflated success and to work on improving so the students can get a good learning experience.
The TAL (Teaching As Leadership) framework is something that was supposedly developed over 20 years of refining their training model. I can tell you (and have in my big critique of it) that it is junk which will actually make CMs less effective.
The TAL has six guiding principles:
1) Set Big Goals
2) Invest Students And Their Families
3) Plan Purposefully
4) Execute Effectively
5) Continuously Increase Effectiveness
6) Work Relentlessly
So, here I’ll make a short explanation of my TAT (Teaching As Teaching) model.
Here are the TAT princples:
1) Set Small Goals — Teaching over your students heads is a sure way to make them feel like they are not ever going to learn anything from you. The best teachers know where a realistic place to set the bar is, and then to try to get the kids to get over a bar that is slightly higher.
2) Spend About Five Minutes In Class Investing Students — More than that, kids eyes just glaze over and they start practicing not listening to you. The best way to get them excited about learning from you is to actually teach them something manageable (See #1) and show them that they have succeeded at it.
3) Plan — I don’t really know if the ‘purposefully’ is necessary (or even a real word). What other kind of planning is there? This is really not a very profound principle for the TAT or the TAL framework. You’ve got to plan. It takes a long time to plan something that has a high percent chance of working. Hopefully, you will save your energy for planning by minimizing the amount of energy TAL suggests you use for their principles #1, #2, and #6.
4) Execute Effectively — You didn’t get a lot of opportunity to practice, so this one will be tough. Books about the details of teaching like ‘Teach Like A Champion’ or my second book ‘Beyond Survival’ will give you good things to think about to compensate for this.
5) Continually Increase Effectiveness — Again, your lack of student teaching shows how much TFA really values this principle. But, yes, you want to celebrate your successes (as TFA the organization does), but more importantly, acknowledge your failures so you can prevent them from happening again (as TFA the organization does not know how to do).
6) Work Moderately — You might think that if career teaching is a marathon, two years is a 100 meter dash, so you can just go ‘all out’ from the gates. The truth is that two years is more like a one mile run. You cannot maintain a full sprint for that long. If you burn yourself out, you will not have the energy to teach your classes effectively, which will make them misbehave, which will take more energy from you, which will make you even less effective …
Good luck to all the 2011 CMs. I hope you accept the responsibility you’ve been given to care for children who really deserve well-trained teachers more seriously than TFA has accepted the responsibility of developing a training model which would promote that.
Here’s a link to some of my blog posts with more specific advice about teaching.